Detroit Police Dispatcher Had 'No Medical Issues' Before Coronavirus Death

WWJ News
March 24, 2020 - 11:54 am

DETROIT (WWJ) - A member of the Detroit Police department has died due to complications from coronavirus.

The civilian employee, identified only as a 38-year-old dispatcher, died Monday. Officials say he had no significant medical issues prior to falling ill.

"The week of March 9th, this employee went on vacation for a week. It's my understanding he traveled out of state," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "When he came back from vacation and came back to work on Monday the 16th, he wasn't feeling well. He was off Tuesday, he came back to work again Wednesday and wasn't feeling well. Thursday he was off sick and by Saturday, his mom called and said he was in the intensive care unit at a suburban hospital in what was thought to be bronchitis."

Doctors performed a test for COVID-19, but he died before the results came back. Ultimately, the results showed he tested positive for the virus. It's the first death in the department due to COVID-19. 

As soon as the department knew coronavirus was involved, Chief James Craig said emergency procedures were initiated. Dispatchers were moved to an emergency communications center so their current workspace could be cleaned and disinfected. Craig said the whole process took just a matter of hours, a feat he called astonishing. Employees are expected to move back to their regular communications center in the next few days. 

The dispatcher's name is not being released out of respect for his family, but Craig said he was a city employee for 11 years.

"Prior to coming to the Detroit Police Department eight years ago, three years he worked for DDOT. And then he came over as what we call an Emergency Services Deployment Operator, which is our 911 call taker. But make no mistake, our 911 call takers, our dispatchers are indeed first responders. He was a first responder," said Craig. "He was beloved, he was respected by all who worked with him, and he's going to be truly missed."

Duggan said the man's death should serve as a reminder as to why the "Stay at Home" executive order currently in place is so important.

"It is not just elderly people who are dying of this disease. There is something about it that is attacking the airways that younger individuals are affected severely as well. It is critical that we respect the social distance rules," Duggan said. "We're all going to wonder as a country, if we hadn't put those social distance rules in some weeks earlier, if we wouldn't have a lot of our citizens still with us."

Duggan said nine members of the police department have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 200 officers are quarantined, though most are expected to return to work this week. Craig said many of the officers interacted with someone at an event who was not showing symptoms at the gathering, but later tested positive for coronavirus. The department has a total of around 2,200 officers.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 1,300 positive cases of coronavirus have been reported statewide, with at least 18 deaths.

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